How many active bluesmen today can claim to stock a homemade, single string cigar box guitar in their arsenal and play it while wearing a priest’s collar, all while being backed by a percussionist and washboard player who prefers to use his hands over drumsticks and spoons? There’s only one, and his name is Reverend K. M. Williams.
Born in 1956 in Clarksville, Williams grew up in Red River County in Northeast Texas, where he soaked in the sounds of blues and R&B music broadcast from WLAC radio out of Nashville. Artists like John Lee Hooker, Blind Willie Johnson, and R. L. Burnside all made strong impressions on Williams as he was coming up, and one of his first introductions to guitar came in the early sixties at the hands of an itinerant blues player believed to be Elmore James. It would be almost two decades before Williams’ career started to take off, but that long journey has led him to open shows for legends like the Holmes Brothers, Little Milton, and Robert Jr. Lockwood, and he shared a bill with Mavis Staples in Europe, where he has returned three times and performed in front of thousands.
The Reverend is a bona fide ordained minister in the Holiness Church and has been performing his unique brand of earthy gospel blues regularly in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area since the nineties. He calls himself the Texas Country Blues Preacher, and for good reason. “I tell people all the time that gospel music and blues are basically the same. I always said that with the blues, you’re asking questions about life, or you’re just expressing how you feel about what you’re going through. And gospel is the answer to those questions. But it’s still the same feeling. I play gospel music the same way I play blues - honest and funky, just real.”
By Roger Gatchet, Living Blues contributor
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